Turtle Tale

5 min read

I knew early on that Opie and I had a lot in common.

They say, “If you spot it, you got it,” and when HP brought this rescue dog into my life, his behavior was only too familiar. Selfish and self-seeking, Opie struggled with impulse control and trust—he seemed to lack faith that the world would provide him with kibble, toys, and love. In Opie’s mind, these things had to be taken by force.

One sweltering, sunshiny day, I went into the yard and spotted Opie chewing something. He had found a small turtle, and the turtle was in his mouth. The turtle looked at me. Opie looked at me. And my first thought was: “Oh, no! What an ordeal. I can’t go through with it.”

I called Opie, but he was lost in the food fog. It seemed he could not hear me, and his eyes were glassy. Opie had an inappropriate thing to eat, and he’d been caught. Disliking my confronting his behavior, he curled his upper lip and growled at me, and I felt afraid. Frantic, I continued to yell, “Opie!” and begged him to stop. I felt powerless, and I was.

It took an agonizing amount of time for Opie to chew through that shell. The turtle was being eaten alive, and bearing witness to it was awful. I felt panicked and could not decide what to do next. After Opie ate the whole turtle, I was afraid he would become sick and die.

Program teaches me, when I do not know what to do, to talk to someone with more experience and strength. I called the vet, who suggested I administer a weak hydrogen peroxide solution to make him vomit. Opie’s willingness wasn’t there yet, but after he became uncomfortable enough he was more open to accepting the solution. He drank it, and the turtle came back up.

I carefully dug through the dog vomit to see if we had brought up all the shell pieces. I was searching and fearless, and we completed an important step together. Like any good food addict, Opie did what compulsive overeaters do after a binge: he passed out. The dog was in my arms, and there was turtle blood and innards on both of us.

Then I cried. I thought of how the Fellowship of OA had cradled me all those years I’d spent eating “inappropriate turtles.” I thought of how I’d growled at family and friends who had tried to help me. I’d gone to meetings. I’d listened. I kept coming back, even though I kept eating turtles. I hadn’t been ready, but I was always welcome. The Fellowship of OA kept a chair open for me; people cleaned up the carnage and loved me through the mess. HP worked in the rooms through their tender hands.

That hot afternoon with my dog, I saw the exquisite gifts of this program and the helping hands of love that were offered to me in my troublesome, turtle-eating years. I felt gratitude. And awe.

— Susan H., Altamonte Springs, Florida USA

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